A Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) report indicates that Malawi is billed to receive average rainfall between October 2021 and March 2022, with potential for above-average rainfall that would facilitate a normal agricultural production season.
The report also indicates that the country is expected to produce above-average maize yield in the 2021-22 growing season owing to favourable rainfall and Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) implementation.
However, food security expert Leonard Chimwaza has said, while anticipating a good harvest, government officials should also expect eventualities that could affect the production outlook.
“For, over the years, their research has been closer to the truth but subject to the proper implementation of AIP, outbreak of pests, floods and drought,” he said.
He cited floods and pests infestation as some of the factors that could negatively affect production projections.
Chimwaza said the first thing the government needed to do was to equip the Department of Disaster Management Affairs with material and financial resources.
“It is a known fact that the occurrence of the Fall Armyworm is a phenomenon that is likely to occur in the 2021-22 growing season. So, the question would be: How prepared is Malawi to prevent further outbreaks? As such, it’s high time the country invested in prevention of outbreaks,” he said.
Chimwaza further suggested that farmers embrace crop diversification.
Another agriculture expert Charles Govati observed that it would be premature to talk about bumper harvest before the crop is planted.
“Only when people have planted can we talk about estimates,” he said.
The Fewsnet report indicates that Malawi is expected to receive average rainfall between October 2021 and March 2022, with potential for above-average rainfall which would facilitate a normal agricultural production season.
“Given the current rainfall forecast and expectations for access to subsidised inputs for poorer households, above-average 2021-22 production of maize and other staples is expected, [representing] the third consecutive year of above-average production.
“As a result, food and income access from own crops and crop sales in the 2022 marketing year (April to June) is expected to be above average,” the report reads.
It adds that the production and sale of cash crops such as soya beans and pigeon peas will likely also increase owing to favourable prices.
The report further foresees the national price of maize remaining to below-average owing to above-average market supplies and household stocks, in the process reducing market demand
Meanwhile, Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Gracian Lungu has said the report is exciting, adding that they would make sure that AIP implementation is expedited.
“So, we are also encouraging farmers to use hybrid seeds and, at the same time, we are also making sure that farmers get required knowledge on Integrated Pest Management System, which helps in mitigating problems related to some pests and diseases that affect the production of maize,” he said.
Since 2016, Malawi has been affected by pests such as the Fall Armyworm, which negatively affected maize production.
Lungu said the ministry had stocked enough chemicals, which would be distributed free-of-charge to farmers.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture’s Food Balance Sheet, or carry overstock, for the 2021-22 consumption season, Malawi will have 1,356,000 metric tonnes of maize surplus.